Colonoscopy - Patient Guide

A colonoscopy is a procedure that enables a physician to examine your colon by inserting a flexible, lighted tube into the rectum. It allows a physician to identify and evaluate abnormalities such as inflamed tissue, abnormal growths and polyps, ulcers, bleeding and possible causes for diarrhea, constipation and/or abdominal pain. A colonoscopy is also used to screen for colon cancer.

How to Prepare for Your Colonoscopy

Your physician's office will give you special instructions before your procedure. If you have questions about the instructions, please contact your physician's office. It is important that you follow the instructions exactly to ensure an adequate study.

Before your procedure, please let your physician know if you are taking insulin, iron or blood thinners such as Coumadin, aspirin, or aspirin-like products. Also let your physician know if you require antibiotics before dental examinations, since you might need antibiotics before your colonoscopy.

The Day of the Colonoscopy

On the day of your procedure, please bring a list of the prescribed and over-the-counter medications that you are currently taking. You must also arrange for someone to drive you home. You will be instructed to arrive one to one and-a-half hours before the scheduled time of your exam. This is to allow time for registration and preparation for the procedure.

What to Expect 

Before your exam begins, you will be given pain medication and a mild sedative to keep you comfortable and relaxed. During the colonoscopy, you will lie on your left side. The physician will insert the colonoscope through your anus and slowly glide it into your colon. You may be asked to change positions to help the physician move the scope. Because the scope uses air to inflate your colon during the procedure, you may feel bloated and/or have cramps.

A colonoscopy usually takes 15 to 60 minutes, but plan to be at the hospital for three to four hours to allow time for preparation and recovery. Family members may wait in the waiting area or they may leave their phone number so the recovery nurse can call them when you are ready to be discharged. After your exam you will be taken to a recovery area. Many people do not recall the procedure because of the effect of the medication. You will probably feel drowsy and you may sleep for a short time. You may still feel bloated after your exam.

Due to the sedative you are given before the exam, you might not remember speaking with your physician afterwards. Once you are ready to be discharged from the hospital, the recovery nurse will give you written instructions to follow. The day after your procedure, a nurse will call you to make sure you did not experience problems after your exam. If your procedure is performed on a Friday, you will receive a phone call the following Monday.

For more information, please call the physician who will be performing your colonoscopy.